Back When Clint Wingfield Was Murdered



The family name of Wingfield conjures up many Rim country stories, none more famous than the murder of Clint Wingfield.

John Henry Wingfield and his family had settled in Strawberry Valley in 1885. As John and Sarah had ten children, it was natural that he should be instrumental in the building of the Strawberry School.

This landmark stands today as the oldest existing pioneer school in the state. Among the Wingfield children was Clinton, who ran cattle up on the Mogollon Rim. The place called Clint's Well is named for him. Clint and his partner Mack Rogers purchased the old Sutler's store at Camp Verde in 1897, and developed the Wingfield Commercial Company. Two years later, on July 1st at 8 in the evening, Mack Rogers was lounging on the porch of the store and visiting with Lou Turner, John Boyd and Dick Hopkins. They observed a stranger coming along the trail into town. He tied his horse some way off, walked toward the store, and sat on the ground at the end of the building. Rogers rose to close up for the night and asked the stranger if he needed anything before they shut down. The fellow said there was nothing, but as Rogers turned to lock the door the newcomer came up behind him with gun drawn, and calling him by name, said, "Get in there Mack." Mack Rogers broke into a run through the store, heading for the guncase in the back, but was dropped by a .45 slug from the stranger's six-shooter. He fell mortally wounded, shot through the neck. Clint Wingfield, hearing the shot, jumped up from the desk in his office where he had been working and headed for the door. Again the gun fired, and Wingfield fell with a wound in his lower back. He would die in a neighbor's house two hours later. The stranger went out through the porch yelling, "I might as well kill you all," and he fired at John Boyd hitting him in the right leg. With that the murderer ran and got on his horse while Dick Hopkins and Lou Turner escaped in the darkness. A rider was immediately dispatched to fetch Sheriff Johnny Munds from the county seat in Prescott.

Arriving the next morning the sheriff and his deputy began recruiting a posse, including Clint's brother, Frank and his cousin, Ed Wingfield, to track down the murderer. Also included were a couple of Apache Indians who were trackers, but since the murderer's horse was unshod the trail was very difficult to follow.

Not only was the ground too hard to make an imprint from a"barefoot" horse, but as they headed up the trail toward the Rim the fugitive had gotten in among a herd of wild ponies and the trail was impossible to trace. They went as far as Long Valley, but returned to take the old mail trail toward Fossil Creek. They then searched all up and down the East Verde River, and finally arrived in Payson. There they got their lead. J. W. Boardman, at the old rock store, told them about a stranger who had been coming in from his camp on the Rim to buy a lot of .45 ammunition and light weight food supplies. He had called himself Charlie Bishop, and had been in Payson six days before the murders.The sheriff's posse got a detailed description of Bishop and his band of horses, then headed up "Tunnel Hill," as the East Verde canyon was already called because of the railroad tunnel started there in 1883. Sheriff Munds left word that nobody was to come up on the Rim while they were hunting Bishop. For the next several days they pursued the elusive murderer, whose horse prints matched those of the Camp Verde villain.

His smoldering camps were found, and he apparently had help because just when the posse would catch up to him and his horse was played out, someone would bring him another horse and off he would go. The trail led in great circles between East Clear Creek and the jump-off at the head of the East Verde.

At one point the posse came upon two suspicious men camping near the East Clear Creek canyon, but they said they had come from New Mexico. Sheriff Munds arrested them, convinced they were the culprit's accomplices, and the Wingfield cousins took them to the prosecutor in Flagstaff.

There it was found they had criminal records. The Wingfields brought back supplies and some bloodhounds to continue the chase.

A sheepherder tipped them off about a lone man camped in Chevelon Canyon, and trekking there they found fresh tracks and an abandoned camp.

However heavy summer rains hampered them, and Munds determined the felon had headed for New Mexico. He dismissed the posse and went on to New Mexico alone. By the time he got to Albuquerque he received word a bandit was being held at Santa Fe who had tried to hold up a train and had his arm blown off by the guard's shotgun.

At Santa Fe Sheriff Munds found that the name Charlie Bishop was an assumed name. The real name of the murderer was Tom "Black Jack" Ketchum.

He and his gang were wanted for numerous crimes and murders, and while he was being pursued in Arizona his brother and the rest of the gang robbed a train in New Mexico on July 11.

Munds interviewed the bandit and took photos of him. Ketchum bragged that during the chase over the Rim the posse was so close he could have spit on them. When Munds got back to Camp Verde the pictures were identified by John Boyd as the man who murdered Wingfield and Rogers.

Munds tried to get him extradited to Arizona, but the governor of New Mexico refused, saying they would hang him for the train robbery.

The 37-year-old Ketchum was convicted and hung in New Mexico, April 26, 1901. Until the last moment he refused to confess the Camp Verde murders, but according to the Arizona paper, The Republic, before he was executed he did confess that he was the man who did it. But what was the motive for these cold-blooded murders, since there was no robbery involved?

Two weeks before, some local Yavapai Indians had several ponies stolen from their camp near the town. They asked Wingfield and Rogers for advice, and Mack Rogers wrote a note to the Justice of the Peace in Jerome, explaining the problem.

The Indians were given permission to trail the horse thieves, and they captured them, recovered their ponies, and delivered the two men to the JP. During the hearing it was revealed that Mack Rogers had initiated their arrest with his note. One of the captives threatened out loud that he would get even with Rogers.

It was assumed by local folk that this horse-thief, Oscar Wade, hired Ketchum to kill Mack Rogers, and Clint Wingfield simply got in the way.

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